BARCELONA – Chuck Robbins, who took Cisco’s reins from John Chambers six months ago, said this week at the Mobile World Congress on 5G: “We see the value isn’t in connectivity, but in data and insight into it.”
Further, he added, “As billions of devices are being added to the network, we envision the next-generation [network] architecture will become incredibly distributed.”
Robbins said the new-generation cellular network’s mobile core is getting increasingly virtualized. It’s being distributed closer to the network’s edge, enabling it to be divvied in slices for different services.
Those in the wired network world are familiar with things like network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). What’s new at the Mobile World Congress here, however, is that the mobile industry is not only catching up with the wired world, but introducing a concept called “Network Slicing” into the 5G system. In describing it, Ericsson said, “networks will be built in a flexible way so that speed, capacity and coverage can be allocated in logical slices to meet the specific demands of each use case.”
Combined with NFV and SDN, the new concept is challenging cellular network operators to rethink architecture and business strategy.
Indeed, for the cellular industry, this is a big deal.
For decades, when the global mobile industry embarked on the development of the next-generation cellular standards, its main concerns were radio access technologies, modulation schemes and network architecture. Operators fretted over connectivity speed and capacity that can meet with the demand of specific hardware – such as mobile handsets – and their applications.
But this could all become a thing of the past.
If the Mobile World Congress this week is any indication, the discussion of 5G’s physical connectivity, while still important, has decidedly begun to shift to such topics as 5G network slicing and network virtualization.
That’s precisely where Cisco sees an opening to insert itself into the coming 5G market.
Cisco announced at the show, among other things, a next-gen collaboration with Ericsson and Intel to develop 5G routers, and a partnership with AT&T on Internet of Things.
Cisco also introduced a new virtualized mobile services platform, called Cisco Ultra. Anticipating different industries to request a slice of network for their particular services, Cisco developed Ultra to help mobile operators launch and deploy new services and more efficiently.
Cisco CEO Robbins described the Ultra as offering “easy button” to operators so that “they can set up a network that can scale up and down within minutes.”
The 5G system is shaping into a platform for services (vs. building out physical networks dedicated to individual hardware). As this transition happens, Robbins stressed, “Service providers should be at the heart of value.” Whether service providers are in automotive, mining or manufacturing businesses, 5G network needs to be able to deliver security, speed, reliability and capacity each service demands, he explained.
Preventing anything services
Consider automotive. What sort of services do carmakers and their OEMs want from the emerging 5G network? How far along are they in embracing connectivity and adopting the network slicing concept?
Robbins believes that automotive OEMs are moving very fast – probably much faster than anyone tends to believe.
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